Churches of Wadena --EMDASH-- Part two
Wadena is distinguished for its many fine churches. The 1927 issue of the Pioneer Journal described those that were flourishing in Wadena at the time.
St. Helen's Episcopal Church
The Episcopalians were probably the first to settle the area when Wadena was established in the 1870s. For many years they had sent missionaries to the area to work with the Indigenous population but it wasn't until 1882 that the congregation attempted anything in the line of a permanent church building. In that year, the Rev. J.B. Gilfillan donated a parsonage, later used as a chapel. Today the Episcopal church in Wadena owns a fine property, probably the best, in many respects, in the entire diocese of Duluth. The church is a beautiful stone structure, erected in 1895. The first pipe organ in Wadena was installed in this church. The rectory, built of the same materials as the church, was erected in 1914 under the rectorship of the Rev. E. Spencer Murphy, who was in charge as pastor of St. Helen's for nearly a quarter of a century. The church has an active Ladies' Guild which has figured prominently in pushing the church forward along both spiritual and material lines. (Editor's note: The church at Wadena was built by the stonemason, Nathanial McConachie, who constructed many fine churches in Minnesota and the Dakotas, the closest being one in Perham, the former Episcopal Church of the Redeemer and current home of the History Museum of East Otter Tail County.)
First Methodist Episcopal Church
The people belonging to the Methodist Episcopal congregation are able to trace the founding of their church organization back to the very early settlement of Wadena in 1872 when their services were first held in the depot. The First Methodist class was organized with four members by Rev. J.H. Crist, a frontier missionary. The Wyvell family, Dr. John Knight and Mr. and Mrs. A. Langley were among those who joined this first class. The Methodists began work on their first house of worship in Wadena in 1879 under the pastorate of the Rev. C.H. Dixon. The church was dedicated in 1882. In 1895, this building was enlarged. By 1911, the congregation had outgrown the old church, and being numerically and financially strong, they erected a new stone church, beautiful in design and so large as to anticipate future needs for a long time to come. When built the cost was upwards of $27,000, including equipment, but the cost of erecting such a church today would be infinitely greater. In this fine church and in the parsonage, the Methodist congregation have a property to be proud of. The church is fully equipped, up-to-date, with a fine pipe organ, modern heating system, gymnasium, kitchen and other conveniences to meet the needs of modern church work. Many helpful organizations within the church render great assistance to the pastor, the Rev. H.W. Bell.
First Congregational Church
The history of the First Congregational church of Wadena dates back to the 1870s. The Rev. Robert Kerr, Scotch minister to the Furness colony, was the first pastor. In 1882, the congregation was able to provide a church building, erected that year on the site of the present church. In 1896, the early church was doubled in size and in 1913 the present fine church was erected. It is a red brick structure, large and very handsome and fully modern in all its furnishings and equipment, including a sweet-toned pipe organ. From a total membership of 37 in 1880, the enrollment has grown to large proportions. A very comfortable parsonage adjoins the church. The Ladies' Aid is one of the active forces ever at work in strengthening the hands of the pastor. Rev. J.E. Jansen is the minister in charge.
The Holiness Methodist church was established under the pastorate of Rev. Herbert Rue. The church also owns a parsonage and has a membership of about 25. The present pastor is Rev. R.M. Rabe.
Information from the Fiftieth Anniversary Number of the Pioneer Journal compiled by Robert C. Zosel. Edited by Lina Belar, interim executive director of the Wadena County Historical Society.